AFRICA/GHANA - Bishop of Koforidua: “Environmental issues must be a political priority”

Wednesday, 8 May 2024 environment   bishops   pollution  

Accra (Agenzia Fides) - Illegal mining, which pollutes rivers and groundwater, and plastic waste are the two main environmental problems in Ghana. A problem to which an answer is also being sought at the academic level with the establishment of the University of Environment and Sustainable Development (UESD) in Somanya in the eastern region of the country. The university was founded by presidential decree in 2015 and opened in 2020. Its aim is to "produce graduates who are equipped with relevant knowledge and skills to be agents of change in environment and sustainable development". The university was visited by the Bishop of Koforidua, Joseph Kwaku Afrifah-Agyekum, who used the occasion to appeal to voters for solid support from political parties ahead of the general elections (presidential and parliamentary) on December 7th to demand environmental protection policy. "Campaigns have started. If I have the opportunity, I will quiz them on what their sustainable environmental policies are," emphasized Bishop Afrifah-Agyekum. Legal and especially illegal mining activities and gold mines have a strong impact on the environment and people in Ghana. Rivers and water sources are contaminated with mercury and arsenic, used in separating gold from rock sediments, as well as other heavy metals such as cadmium and manganese. It is no coincidence that Bishop Afrifah-Agyekum said: "As an Akyem, we used to say, ‘Akyemkwa onum birem nsuo,’ meaning we drank from the Birim River. Can we still say that now?". In addition, mining has reduced agricultural land. According to a study published in 2017 by Ghana's University of Tarkwa, "between 1986 and 2006, agricultural land use decreased by 661.54 hectares between 1986 and 2006, representing a 15.45% reduction. This was due to the conversion of 325.83 hectares for mining activities (mine pits and mine waste dumps) and 335.71 hectares into other land uses, including settlements and roads to facilitate mining activities." Another serious environmental problem Ghana is facing is the dumping of plastic waste into the environment. According to a UN study, in Ghana "only 5% of the 1.1 million tons of plastic waste generated annually is recycled, and plastic pollution (including pollution due to single-use plastics) is rampant. Single-use plastics could take thousands of years to decompose and are harmful to ecosystems, but they are widely used in Ghana, often due to their low cost and perceived convenience". (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 8/5/2024)